Everyone procrastinates at one time or another, but not everyone is a habitual procrastinator. Procrastination is a characteristic often associated with 6s. It is also quite often linked with perfectionism, as if perfectionism is a direct and quantifiable cause of procrastination. This is one of those things I’ve always wondered about because 6s have never seemed like perfectionists to me.
6s can be full of anxiety, however; so maybe anxiety leads to procrastination. But according to the research, the anxiety people feel when a deadline is staring them in the face and they aren’t sure they can meet it is the result of having procrastinated.
According to analysis of about a hundred studies involving tens of thousands of participants, anxiety produces a negligible amount of procrastination at best—and even that tiny amount disappears completely after you take into account other personality characteristics, especially impulsiveness.
–Piers Steel, Ph.D., author of The Procrastination Equation
It turns out that perfectionists actually tend to procrastinate less than other people do, which makes sense when you think about it. According to Piers Steel, it’s impulsiveness that is “the nickel-iron core” of procrastination:
[I]mpulsiveness creates procrastination because it makes small but immediate temptations, like playing Minesweeper or updating your social network status, especially attractive. The reward might be small but the delay is virtually nonexistent. On the flip side, large but distant rewards, like graduating or saving for retirement, aren’t valued much at all. Despite their importance, these long-term goals don’t motivate us until the march of time itself eventually transforms them into short-term consequences. Only in those final hours do we frantically try to catch up on what we really should have addressed long before. The more impulsive you are, the closer to deadlines you need to be before you’ll feel fully motivated.
That makes sense, but I wonder if distractibility—which means to turn away from the original focus of attention or interest—might not be a more apt term for this than impulsiveness—which means to act suddenly on impulse without reflection.
Just as everyone procrastinates from time to time, anyone can become distracted. But maybe some Enneagram types are naturally easier to distract than others.
1s, 2s, and 6s, the Compliant types, are prone to getting caught up in, and distracted by, whatever is going on in the immediate moment, at which point they lose sight of the bigger picture. It seems like they have a more difficult time keeping focused.
9s are notorious for their low distractibility threshold. One 9 in an Enneagram video confessed that even if she had to be somewhere at a particular time and was already late, she might still find herself at home picking dead leaves off of her plants. Random elements in the environment reach out and grab 9s’ attention. “Look, a bird!”
4s and 5s are not naturally focused on or attuned to the demands of the external world. When they put things off, is it because they are procrastinating or because they simply don’t care? Maybe it’s the same thing. Steel says:
Two big contributing factors to procrastination are straightforward: low self-confidence and the aversiveness of tasks. If we doubt our ability to complete a chore and find it as exciting as watching concrete set, we are more likely to put it off. It is no wonder that taxes, which are both difficult and boring, are famous for making procrastinators out of almost all of us.
So 4s might be inclined to procrastinate about boring tasks and 5s about tasks they feel less confident about doing successfully.
7s are sometimes described as impulsive and other times as distracted, as if the terms mean the same thing, which they don’t. I think impulsive better defines them than distracted, but they are likely to procrastinate when it comes to doing things they see as painful or unpleasant.
8s are usually very focused and don’t appear to be procrastinators, but they are no strangers to it. For one thing, they tend to avoid doing things that aren’t a part of their current agenda. For another, they don’t see a problem in putting things off till the last minute, or not doing them at all, figuring they can deal with the consequences.
3s may be the least likely of all the types to procrastinate. Their drive to succeed means they need to do whatever they attempt well. Procrastinating would be too dangerous a game to play.
Go ahead, procrastinate
How much do you procrastinate? Here’s a link to a procrastination survey you can complete. It might be an interesting distraction.